The opening season of the magical teen drama The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a fun and exciting watch from start to finish, even if the middle and closing episodes suffer slightly from the brilliant opening ones.
It is not a surprise coming from a show based on a comic book series, but I was happy that the majority of the characters pop off the screen. This is especially true of the characters who are of the magical realm, as the show uses its cast to good effect. Both Miranda Otto, as Sabrina’s sarcastic Aunt Zelda, and Michelle Gomez, as an unknown demonic being who takes over the body of one of Sabrina’s teachers, take it in turns to steal the scenes with brilliant one liners and characterisation.
For the first season of a reimagined TV show, I was surprised by how much the writers throw the viewers in at the deep end with the plot. Positioning Sabrina’s dark baptism and the writing of her name in Satan’s book at the start of the season makes the opening three episodes quite strong. It is a double edged sword though, for the middle of the season feels far more mundane and trivial and the finale, though high stakes, doesn’t feel as connected to the season opening as it could have done.
Even though this is a show centred on magical users and Satan, this is primarily a teen drama. This means that there are a lot of personal narratives across the season, which can be a weakness when the primary cast numbers are in double figures. Some of the personal narratives in the season, such as Roz’s blindness and discovering she can detect magic, and also Suzie’s ghostly ancestor, are overshadowed by narratives that are more in-your-face and more linked to Sabrina’s journey.
There are a couple more details to mention that were impressive. The first is the use of visual effects, which somehow stay aligned to the period of the original series but have extra effects – such as off focus camera shots when magic is being used. The second is the festive special which closed Season 1 on Netflix. I found it the best episode of the season as it was a great blend of emotion, drama and horror, even if it did veer slightly to the corny with the angelic appearance of Sabrina’s deceased mother.
The first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina felt like a good addition to the modern teen drama genre. It had a good balance between the magical and the ordinary with its narrative and several episodes stood out, helped by some great casting and characterisation. It did feel a bit messy at times, and some characters in the large cast were sidelined, but it is definitely a series to watch.
Star Rating: 3.5/5